Thursday, January 26, 2006

National Film Association: Boycott Bangkok International Film Festival

Wow. Nothing like a little excitement on a Thursday afternoon. I just saw the story on Monsters and Critics that the Federation of National Film Association of Thailand is calling for a boycott of the Bangkok International Film Festival.

In past years, the festival organizers cooperated with the Federation, which reportedly has 940 members in 11 branches of the film industry. But not this year.

Sorasak Sunpituksaree, deputy secretary general of the Federation was quoted as saying that the Federation was "left out" of planning by the festival's organizer, the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

"There are three specific areas we were excluded," Sorasak was quoted as saying. "The first was in arranging the film market which is done through Film Festival Management, the Los Angeles Office of the festival.

"The second was in programming films – our members know Thai films the best, but this year we were not asked for input by TAT in Bangkok or by festival programmers in LA.

"And finally, each year we have worked with TAT to help promote and advertise the festival through Thai 'channels': this year they claimed they have a reduced budget and would have no funds for Federation use."

Federation president Somsak Techaratanaprasert met earlier this week with Major Cineplex CEO Vicha Poolveraluk to ask Major to honor the boycott, Monsters and Critics said.

But since the festival is taking place at Major's new cineplex at the new Siam Paragon, which is a cornerstone in the TAT's strategy to promote Bangkok as a world class tourism center, that was impossible. However, Major's EGV Grand at Siam Center next door might have festival screenings withdrawn. Wait and see on that.

Another nearby theater, SF Cinema City's MBK Center branch, wasn't even asked to participate.

"For a film festival that is supposed to celebrate film and bring together those in the Thai film industry, we find it rather strange that we were not asked to participate," SF deputy managing director Suvannee Chinchiewchan was quoted as saying.

The boycott won't affect the screening of Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves as the opening film.

"Pen-ek's film is a co-production and falls outside the purview of the Federation," Sorasak said.

Also, Invisible Waves is from Five Star Production, which I don't see going along with the boycott anyway. Remember, it was Five Star that boycotted the National Film Awards, which were structured to favor films made by Sahamongkol.

Meanwhile, the festival is continuing to shape up. There's the Sombat Metanee restrospective, being put on with the help of the Thai Film Foundation.

And a number of big-name stars are scheduled to visit, among them Terry Gilliam, who will lead a workshop, as well as Willem Dafoe, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Bruce Beresford, Chris Columbus, Taylor Hackford and Fernando Meirelles. ThaiDay has more on that.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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